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Every now and then, an artist comes along that catches your eye (or should I say ear) and has you wanting to know more - for me that was Majid Jordan. Within seconds of hearing “A Place Like This” I was pulled in and wanted to hear more. Their sound reminded me of the 90s trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps (see “6 Underground”), but with a modern twist.

While production is definitely noticeable, A Place Like This is not over-produced. Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman know what they’re doing in the recording studio and it’s no surprise that Drake (yes, THAT Drake) signed them to his label OVO Sound. There’s such a smooth, mellow sound from the beginning of “Forever” to the end of “A Place Like This”. The flow is so good, you can set the album on loop and never get sick of it. Whether you wanna party with friends or kick back and relax, this album is perfect.

Their style if very versatile they could easily go from playing in a club to touring with artists like Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Jason Derulo, Pharrell, or even Drake himself. The album has only been out for a couple months and I’m already anxiously anticipating what’s next for them. Do yourself a favor and give these guys a listen. Maybe it’s not your usual style of music, or maybe it is and you need that extra push to check out someone new - no matter who you are, what you’re into, or how stubborn you are - all it takes is a few minutes to listen to a track and gather your own opinion of Majid Jordan. And if you end up loving them like I do, you can thank me later ;) - Envy

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EP’s seem to be a more common release from bands than putting together one solid full length album. Maybe it’s because they want to be able to experiment with their sound more and see what people like most, or maybe it’s because it’s cheaper to record 4 songs than it is 12. UK pop punkers Trash Boat opted to stick with the shorter route when they were putting together their newest release, Look Alive.

This album has a bit more of a “demo” feel to it than an EP, showcasing a mix of pop punk and melodic hardcore, with hints of influences from bands like Rise Against, Thrice and Blink 182. I will admit, it’s kinda hard to get a good feel for what I really think about these guys when the EP clocks in at only 12 minutes long. I’m sure for fans of the band this is great, but for someone new to their sound I wish there was more to it. I also feel like seeing them live would have me more interested. They have that energy to their music that pulls you in but translates better on stage. Some bands are at their best during live shows rather than being in a recording booth and I get the feeling that Trash Boat is one of those bands. My guess is that they feed off their crowd’s energy, be it sing-alongs or pileups.

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I wouldn’t mind hearing a live EP for their next release and seeing if my guesses are correct. One thing’s for sure, I’ll definitely be following up on what the band is up to during their career. Hopefully when someone like The Story So Far tours out their way they’ll get the chance to open the show and then get offered to open for them on some US dates, preferably in the North East so I can check em out. - Envy

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It’s pretty likely that at some point in your life you’ve heard a UB40 song - most likely “Red Red Wine”, “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)”, or their amazing cover of the Elvis Presley song “Can’t Help Falling In Love” - and if you’re anything like me, you fell in love with Ali Campbell’s smooth voice instantly.

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I’ll admit it, I might have even had a bit of a crush on him growing up. That aside, Campbell’s distinct voice always stood out to me. Despite Campbell leaving the band in 2008, that didn’t slow him down, and would continue making music. In fact, this past July he released a teaser video for a new song and album titled Silhouette, to be released on Cooking Vinyl. The announcement also included that he would be reuniting with UB40’s Astro and Mickey for the album. In early September an official video for the title track was released and the world began to remember how much they loved Campbell’s voice and became excited for the new album.

For those of you expecting to hear reggae music that makes you sway combined with Campbell’s silky voice, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what you’re going to get. With over an hour’s worth of blissful jams, you’ll want to grab yourself a drink (just be careful if its red wine), kick back in your favorite chair and drift away, letting Campbell and Co. be your guides. Don’t have an hour to spend? How about a quick 4-ish minute trip to the “Fijian Sunset”? I will have to warn you though, once you listen to that song you will want to continue on your adventures with the rest of the album.

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Maybe its my inner love for ska (ska at heart?) but there seems to be a lack of good, fun records with horns in them these days. Thankfully this album is filled with horns and keys. While the same, light-hearted musical vibe is provided flawlessly through each song, the lyrics travel onto various topics to keep the sound from becoming stale. Honestly, this album could be 18 tracks about tacos and it would still be a refreshing listen from start to finish. No matter the topic, Campbell will have you drawn in and listening. I often find myself restarting the album when I reach the end because it’s too good to listen to just once. The only way this album could get better would be by seeing the songs performed live, which hopefully those of us in the US will get the chance to do in 2015 (here’s to hoping for a US tour announcement soon). If you like music that you can sway to and a unique voice that you could easily pick out of a crowd, this album is definitely for you. - Envy

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By now, you’ve heard Young Rising Sons a million times - you just might not have realized it was them. Back in July, the band released “High”, off their debut self-titled EP, and since then it has been everywhere. Movie trailers, on the radio, hummed by someone next to you on your commute to work or school - everywhere. It’s catchy, SUPER catchy. And just when you think the song can’t get any better, they release an acoustic version of it which you can download for FREE!

The whole album has such a light, uplifting feel to it. I challenge you to listen to all 15-or-so minutes of this EP and NOT tap your foot along (or something similarly happy). There’s a lot of negativity in songs these days, words of loss and anger - but not here. There’s so much positive energy being put out from these songs, it makes me want to know more about them and see what life is like at their shows (future #TOURLIFE feature maybe? Please?).

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One thing I know for sure is that I want to see these guys on tour with Twin Forks asap. Hell, I want a duet with Andy Tongren and Chris Carrabba! Maybe a little dueling vocals action, or something like the collaboration between Max Bemis (Say Anything) and Chris Conley (Saves The Day) for Two Tongues. Adding to the duet list, I wouldn’t mind seeing them recording and touring with A Great Big World too. Being an East Coast native, frequent concert attendee, and NJ diner-er combined with the fact that the band has been together since 2010, I don’t know how I haven’t crossed paths or heard of YRS until recently. Either way, I’m very glad that I know who they are now. This EP is my new go-to album for when I need a cheer-up, or just want to smile and enjoy life. You know what? I bet these guys give the best hugs ever too, cuz if you think about it, their songs are kinda like musical bear hugs. - Envy

California’s A Skylit Drive gifted us with an acoustic video today for their song “Save Me Tragedy”. The band also teased us with news that there will be a big announcement soon.. what do you think it will be? New album? New tour? Guess we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out..

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LA’s own electro outfit Vow have released their debut offering, Make Me Yours through The Native Sound, iTunes, Bandcamp and other digital download portals, and it’s a bit of a gem.

Opener “Miles Away” sets you up perfect for the 5 tracks ahead of you. Dark, brooding beats that would sit perfectly on any record New Order have ever recorded, with a large dose of Lana Del Rey-melancholy-style vocals. “Planks” gives off a Nine Inch Nails industrial feel while maintaining and not taking away from Julia Blake’s distinctive vocals.

An obvious and lazy comparison for Vow, would be media darlings Chvrches, but with a track like “Charm”, it’s really hard to not use it. It’s not an overwhelming element, just something that crops up here and there. Having a female singer is a coincidence as neither sound like each other. 

With the rise of acts like them and Manchester, England’s Hurts, this brand of introspective electronica is a welcome addition to our record collections and to stages around the world, hopefully at some point. - Andrew

I’ve said it before and I will say it over and over again.. Story Of the Year are a band I will always love and support, no matter what. When I saw a long, well worded post from the band on their Facebook page I immediately worried that they were going to be pulling the plug. What I read was far from it. With complete honesty, written from the heart, the band announced that with family and real-life expenses, it’s time to put that first and the band second. They also announced that Adam would be leaving. Hearing this is a bummer at first but when you read what they had to say you’ll agree with them 100% that they are doing the right thing. I hope this isn’t the end of the line for Adam’s music career, he has too much talent to just hang it up.. but if he does, we’ll always have these amazing albums to remind us of how lucky we were to see/hear him play. As for SOTY, I’ll be one of the first people to donate/pledge if they go that route for making albums and we’ll continue to cover them on Emo At Heart in hopes that we might be able to help them gain a few new fans. -Envy

Below is what they wrote to their fans on their Facebook page:

What a journey this has been.

The places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the music we’ve created- it’s all led us to the right here, the right now. We’ve spent endless hours contemplating the future, wondering where we go from here, wondering if if we should keep the fire burning, or let it die and move on with our lives like so many of our peers have.

The music industry has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. The industry that we knew when we first signed a record deal in 2002 no longer exists. There are no more giant record deals, no more of the excess you might have seen on VH1 Behind the Music or read about in the Zeppelin or Motley Crue books. The digital revolution created a new paradigm, and it’s had a dramatic effect on the people who make the music you listen to. Simply put, the fact that you can get (or listen to) any song, at any time, for free, changed everything. And change is never easy, especially when you are stubborn & slow to react like the music industry was.

Here’s a dose of reality, SOTY fans:

We’ve been a band for ten plus years, sold over 2 million records, played in something like 30 countries, and in recent years the members of Story of the Year would have made more money waiting tables or serving coffee. That’s the truth. 99.9 % of artists would make more money having a lemonade stand in their parents front yard.

We aren’t kids anymore. We have wives, kids, house payments- real life shit. Every member of this band has questioned how much longer they can do this. We’ve left our families for months at a time, sometimes coming home with what would equate to minimum wage. Or less. We’ve spent the last 5 years clinging to that last bastion of hope that we would have that hit song that would connect at radio or become a viral sensation and catapult us back up the mountain. We’ve had our fingers crossed for years, (so have the wives), that each next tour or album would be the answers to all of our prayers. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

So here we are.

Yes, the music industry has changed. But it’s NOT all doom and gloom! Not even close. The beautiful thing about being a band in 2014 is that we’ve never had more control over our own destiny. We have more power and a more direct connection to our fans than ever. We can pick up an iPhone and reach you all, instantly. That’s fucking magic!

So what do we do?

We’re going to completely re-think the way we operate as a band and business. Re-think the puzzle. Some of us have other bands, some make films and pictures, some build stuff, some will produce music, some work in radio. SOTY will not be our sole endeavor moving forward, because we can no longer sustain as grown ass men with real world responsibilities on SOTY alone. That’s the truth.

Adam will no longer continue on this journey, as it doesn’t fit with his life plan moving forward, and that’s absolutely okay. SOTY has always been about more than music- we support our friends round’ here- and we wish him nothing but the absolute best. Please do the same, because that’s our boy.

The rest of us will carry on. This band has given us more than you will ever know. And besides, it’s just too much fun! That feeling of walking out on stage, or writing a song that can change someone’s life- we won’t walk away from that. We will keep the torch burning bright. This is a beautiful time to be a creative person, despite the growing pains and financial insecurities. The old days are gone. No one is getting a big record deal, but so what? We can record music for 1/20 of what it used to cost because of technology. We can deliver it directly to our fans because of the internet. This is only possible now. If this were 15 years ago, we would have no choice but to hang it up. But we don’t have to, and we’re not. We are going to make records that we want to make, and play shows that we want to play. And in between we will do other things. SOTY will go on, because our band rules! There is no more pressure. It’s going to be just like it was when we were 15, and we played & recorded music for the simple love and joy of it. And then we’ll play some shows. Play a festival in Belgium or South Korea. Do a little Japan tour. Play solid USA markets. Spend a week in Australia. What we won’t do is spend 13 months a year on the road away from our families just to scrape by, stressed the fuck out because if we don’t have that magical song then we’ll be dropped from the label. No more of that. We are working class musicians, changing our business model.

That’s where we are, and it feels great.

We are planning a record now. Songs being written as we speak. And we plan to continue releasing records until we are skeletons. Between albums we will play shows & tour when it makes sense, and when we aren’t doing that we will pursue other endevours and be husbands and fathers. No more rock star myth. No more of this false, entertainment industry standard of only showing the best hand. We want to show you warts and all. Show you what being a working class artist entails. Fuck all that other bullshit. This is, and always has been about friendship and a mutual love of music. We are inspired as ever, ready to rock harder than ever. Here’s to a new era of creativity. A new era of re-ignited passion and possibility. Here’s to the next adventure!

We love you humans, and we know you are with us. Now let’s rock some shows!

SOTY

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Gnarwolves are a band who’s name is rapidly becoming known in the punk community. It is only a matter of time before their shows with such high-profile names, such as A Day to Remember, Bring Me the Horizon, and The Story So Far - paired with this sophomore self-titled LP - catapult them from Brighton, England into the sights of Pabst-drinking festival attendees everywhere. The semi-bearded punk rock act is in the perfect position to get noticed and they have the music to back that up.

Gnarwolves delivers ten tracks of melodic sing-along punk rock that comes soaked in whiskey and served on a well-worn skateboard with a cigarette on the side. I would say they best musical description of this band is what you would get if you made a super group with members of Hot Water Music, Off With Their Heads, and Kid Dynamite. The music very much appeals to the broken-hearted fun-loving community that makes up punk rock. There really is not much I can say about the music in depth without just saying listen to it. What can be said, however, is the unexpected heaviness of the closing track on this album, “Eat Dynamite, Kid”. I won’t necessarily claim that it’s anything new or groundbreaking, but I will say that it is a breath of fresh air for the genre and is absolutely worth checking out.

If you are a fan of bands like Smoke or Fire, Dead to Me, or any of the aforementioned similar-sounding bands, definitely don’t sleep on this release. And if you’re in the Philadelphia area, don’t miss them at Self Help Fest! - Rob G

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Philadelphia, PA-based The Lawsuits, fresh off their critically acclaimed debut, Cool Cool Cool, have just released a new EP, Tumbled. The band – now a five-piece thanks to the addition of Joe Bisirri on guitar and piano – have beautifully crafted 4 songs that are as incredible as they are varied.

A year ago, on the release of Cool Cool Cool, I wrote the following:

Imagine a very large blender – got it? Ok, fill it with every musical style dating back 60 or so years, stir in the vocal stylings of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Norah Jones – then turn on high and let it rip. The result: The Lawsuits’ latest album…

Like a great vineyard, the year-to-year product remains outstanding – with subtle differences in the final product – this year’s batch fragrant with notes of The Moody Blues and Patsy Kline.

Each of the EP’s four tracks is a stand-out, but I have to call special attention to “Gimme Gimme”, featuring vocalist Vanessa Winters channeling the inimitable Dusty Springfield, as well as the exquisite guitar solo in “Sweet Marcelle” – whether the work of the aforementioned Bisirri, or of frontman Brian Dale Allen Strouse – it , and the EP as a whole, is a pure joy to listen to. - J

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Washington, DC’s Darkest Hour seem to have pissed a lot of people off. Whether it be the police while trying to tour around the US, problems with their label, and now some fans. They seem to be provoking a reaction with a lot of what they do – at least it’s not a boring ride with DC’s finest, eh?

Since 1994, their brand of melodic metalcore has remained true throughout, their albums have all been pretty stellar (2003’s Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation, 2005’s Undoing Ruin, 2007’s Deliver Us notably being fan favourites) but their sound has remained relatively untouched – until now.

Instead of just the guitars doing the melodies, vocalist John Henry has taken up part of that responsibility, to a pleasing end. Opener “Wasteland” is a mid-paced, grinding slab of metal that any fan of the Gothernburg style would love – until, the half-sung/spoken vocals come in. Fret ye not fans, Darkest Hour are not clawing at the billboard or popular charts in any way, they are clearly just taking their metal influences from bands that don’t just melt your faces but have vocal melodies too and incorporating them into their sound. With songs like “The Misery We Make” and “By The Starlight” featuring LA singer / songwriter Draemings are perfect examples of their skill with vocal melodies and song writing, but without losing their edge.

The only thing that isn’t there on the new album is the constant heavy-ness of previous records. Though the band may be doing something different or new to their sound, this should be applauded and not lamented as something they have lost. They haven’t lost anything, they are adding components that where not there before. Bands need to do something new every so often, if only for themselves so they are not type cast into recording the same sounding record every few years.

At the end of the day, you can be along for the ride with them, or if you don’t like it, get off and just listen to those albums before, but you will be missing out on a band who want to push their own boundaries, try new things, and deserve your attention for that alone – but to miss out on a stunning track like “Departure” would be doing yourself a disservice. - Andrew

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Considering that My Iron Lung has only existed for 3 years, they’ve managed to make quite a name for themselves in the emo-core scene, leading to Relief, the band’s first full-length album since forming in San Diego back in 2011.

The first two tracks, “Commonwealth” and “Conflict Of Interest”, echo delightfully of classic emo, but with hints of hardcore influence. Almost like Sunny Day Real Estate and Small Brown Bike had a kid, and that kid listened to a lot of Fugazi. Track #3, “The Darkest Past”, reminds me of a harder version of The Appleseed Cast. Actually, the more I think about it, most of this album reminds me of a harder version of The Appleseed Cast. Wonderfully toned and intricate guitar work, with super composed drums, heavy underlying bass, and vocals that sing just as much as they scream. If anyone out there is classifying this band as hardcore, let me say it is the most interesting and complex hardcore I have heard in years. Of the 10 songs on the record, none of them let up in their originality, complexity, or intensity.

The band just finished up a major national tour with Hundreth, Counterparts, and Handguns, and then they jump across the pond for a string of shows in the UK this winter. If I had to call it now, expect their opener status to be a very temporary thing. This band is one single away from being a headliner. - Brendan

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Origin’s latest interstellar masterpiece, Omnipresent, is the latest in a recent movement of extreme metal records dedicated to the frozen infinite void of deep space. Truthfully, it’s pretty difficult to think of a more fitting theme to pair with the relentless stylings of one of the US’s most notoriously brutal technical death metal bands. Notorious drummer John Longstreth’s unbelievably fast blast beats alone are perfectly cast in songs about traveling faster than light speed.

Musically speaking, Omnipresent has an awful lot going for it. It’s unmistakably an Origin record – packed with examples of the Kansas five piece’s technical proficiency and breakneck speed. At the same time, there’s probably more variety to be found on Omnipresent than on any of their previous releases. An unexpected and fun surprise is the track “Redistribution of Filth” which (vocals and drums aside) comes across as more of a 90’s hardcore song than what one might expect from a death metal act.

It’s easy for notoriously fast artists to write songs that maintain that speed throughout, but Origin does a good job of demonstrating when to slow things down for effect – often descending into extra-heavy half- and quarter-speed sections before returning to full throttle. “Unattainable Zero” is one of the best examples of this – constantly switching gears between the super fast and super slow, while somehow having it all make sense.

The middle of the album offers an unexpected melodic break in the form of “Continuum” – which feels a little like placing your nose inside a plastic mask for one last fleeting gasp of air before hurtling back through six punishing tracks’ worth of the vacuum of space.

Make no mistake about it: Omnipresent has a lot more to offer than tempo changes and technical prowess. These 13 tracks are peppered with memorable, even beautiful solo work. And while I wouldn’t exactly describe anything Origin has ever done as catchy, I’d say this is easily the most accessible record they’ve ever released – largely due to some very creative song structuring.

I’d say Omnipresent is my favorite Origin record yet – delivering all that their fan base expects in the most sophisticated and accessible package to date. - Paul

France’s The Amsterdam Red-Light District decided it’s time for us to get a taste of what’s to come with their new video for “Gone For A While”, which is also the name of the new album that they will be releasing on November 26th. Elio Sxone’s voice combines the perfect blend of melodic vocals and gut-wrenching screams like it’s nothing. We’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing what else this album will bring over the next couple months!